How To Cook The Perfect Risotto

Risotto is one of those cosy dishes well worth the dutiful stovetop TLC required. Here, some of the UK’s top chefs share their best tips to make this comforting, winter dish using the most basic of ingredients.
How To Cook The Perfect Risotto

Rose Ashby, Spring 

“Risotto can be like a little hug for your soul but giving it the time and attention it needs can be tricky when you have guests to entertain. My tip will cut your cooking time in half. Simply cook your rice halfway, then cool it on a flat tray and keep it covered in the fridge until you need it. You will know your rice is half-cooked when you break through a grain and it is still mostly chalky inside with only a soft, very thin outer layer. Then when the time comes, heat the rice up gently, slowly adding hot stock and any other ingredients you fancy.”

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Chris Hill, Colette​

“In Italy, the homeland of risotto, the dish is eaten as a starter or a ‘primi’, in a similar way to pasta. Always start with very finely chopped shallot garlic, thyme or another herb of your choice. Then add your rice – Acquerello Carnaroli rice is ideal – a splash of white wine, and start to add your stock. Use a stock with a rich flavour, homemade where possible, and cook over a low heat. Once your rice has absorbed all the stock, sprinkle with parmesan, then let it sit and rest for five minutes before serving.”

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Tomas Lidakevicius, Turnips  

“It’s very important to toast your risotto rice when cooking and keep adding hot stock, too – you want it to cook as quickly as possible. You should also add some cold butter once it's cooked to emulsify the rice, or alternately finish with a touch of good quality vinegar, depending on the flavour profile.” 

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Dorian Janmaat, The Idle Rocks

“The key to a great risotto starts with quality ingredients. Try to use Acquerello risotto rice – it gives a firm, yet silky, texture. For the base of a luxurious shellfish risotto, make the fish stock from prime fish bones such as turbot, sole or monkfish. Also, add cockles, clams and mussels pre-cooked with some shallots, white wine and thyme. Always stir the rice during cooking to release the starch and cook evenly. You can tell a rice grain is perfectly cooked if, when you squeeze it between your fingers, it splits into three piece.”

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Francisco Lafee, Como Garden

“Start by choosing your pan. Avoid using a wide pan, as the rice will be cooked in too thin a layer. Select high quality ingredients: a good carnaroli or arborio rice, toasted to enhance flavours, then simmered with a good quality dry wine. Use a stock that is rich in flavour and pour it in when hot, not cold. Add your toppings at the end when the rice is cooked, to maintain the texture of your toppings. Finally, add some good organic butter and parmesan cheese and close the lid of the pot for one minute, to give it an extra creamy consistency.” 

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Ioannis Grammenos, Heliot Steak House

“Always use a specialist rice for risotto like carnaroli, arborio or vialone nano. As these grains cook and soften, they release their starch and create the signature creaminess we all love about a well-made risotto. Use fresh ingredients – the vibrancy will really come through and elevate the finished dish. Over-stirring is a common mistake and destroys the texture of the rice. Season at the beginning, as well as at the end, of cooking. Salt helps the rice to open up as it cooks, creating a creamy texture.”

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Francesco Mazzei, Sartoria​

“The biggest mistake people make when cooking risotto is overcooking the rice. For the perfect al dente consistency, cook the risotto for 18-20 minutes. Don’t add the stock all at once, this results in a ‘rice soup’ which means the rice will be unevenly cooked. If you’re adding wine to your risotto, never stir the wine into the risotto rice. Instead, create a small hole in the middle of the rice, pour in the wine and let it evaporate.” 

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Ian Howard, The Athenaeum Hotel & Residences​

“Apart from the use of arborio rice for a good risotto, it’s important to have a good quality fresh stock. Flavouring your risotto is also key. For example, if you use pumpkin as your chosen flavour, layer the flavours by using grated pumpkin in the rice base, followed by a puree, then use toasted pumpkin seeds, which adds another texture. Finally, finish with a pumpkin oil to really make the pumpkin flavour sing.”

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Massimo Mioli, Terra Terra ​

“During the cold winter months, one of my favourite Italian dishes to prepare is Ossobuco with Risotto alla Milanese. This dish is a classic from the Piedmont region in Italy. The risotto element is really simple, just flavoured with plenty of butter, parmesan and saffron, and paired with some slow-cooked and tender meat. The meat is so soft that you need to make sure the risotto is cooked al dente, to give the dish some bite.” 

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Richard de la Cruz, Arros QD​

“First, toast the rice lightly, without letting it brown. This process unlocks flavour and creaminess. Risotto likes attention, from start to finish – so always keep an eye on it. Only this way will you achieve the desired consistency. Add the additional ingredients depending on their cooking time – asparagus, for example, will lose its crunch if added at the beginning. Make sure the butter is very cold, then dice and add it to the rice once it’s cooked. Mix vigorously until the butter melts and the rice is creamy.”

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Ben Tish, The Stafford Collection​

“Always add cold butter at the end of the risotto cooking process with the pan off the heat. You’ll get a much glossier finish to the dish that way and it will have an amazing silky texture.” 

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Ravinder Bhogal, Comfort and Joy

“Once you have fried off the onions, add the rice and toast it until slightly translucent, then add your wine. Once mostly evaporated, add a quality hot stock in small increments. If you overwhelm the rice with too much liquid, you end up boiling the rice, which won’t result in the desired creamy consistency. Stir the risotto in one direction only, a rule shared with me by an Italian chef. Finish (off the heat to prevent splitting) with some fat – cold butter and parmesan or marscapone.” 

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